Obama hails Egypt’s Gandhian revolution, calls for ‘genuine democracy’

By Arun Kumar, IANS
Friday, February 11, 2011

WASHINGTON - As the Egyptian people created history by ending three decades of Hosni Mubarak’s autocratic rule through a Gandhi like “moral force of nonviolence”, US President Barack Obama praised it as a new “beginning.”

The end of Mubarak’s rule Friday by a groundswell of popular protests that began Jan 25 was not “the end of Egypt’s transition. It’s a beginning,” he said in a six-minute speech from the White House hours after Mubarak stepped down Friday.

“The people of Egypt have spoken,” Obama said. “Their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same.”

Urging all sides in Egypt’s rapidly unfolding political drama to ensure a peaceful transition to democracy, he warned that there are “tough days ahead” for Egypt.

But he also declared his confidence in the ability of the Egyptian people to “find the answers” they are seeking “peacefully, constructively and in the spirit of unity that has defined these last few weeks.”

“Nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day,” he declared, promising that his administration is ready to provide assistance to America’s long time Middle Eastern ally.

Obama praised the Egyptian military for acting responsibly over the past three weeks and urged it to help ensure a credible transition that, among other things, ends emergency rule, ensures the enactment of key legal reforms and brings “all of Egypt’s voices to the table.”

“The wheel of history turned at a blinding pace” the past few weeks and disproved the notion that “justice is gained by violence,” Obama concluded.

“In Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence-not terrorism, not mindless killing … that bent the arc of history toward justice once more.”

Obama spent part of the afternoon huddling with his national security team in the White House Situation Room, CNN reported citing Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

Obama was in a meeting in the Oval Office when he learned that Mubarak was stepping down, Vietor noted. The president watched television coverage of the events in Egypt for several minutes afterward, Vietor said.

Obama did not talk to Mubarak or Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman before the announcement of Mubarak’s resignation, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Gibbs, however, also appeared to indicate that administration officials may have known Mubarak was stepping down before the official announcement was made in Cairo.

The White House had indications “that the last speeches may not have been given” by authorities after Mubarak delivered his poorly received address to the Egyptian people Thursday night, Gibbs said.

Gibbs, expressing concern over relations between Egypt and Israel, said it’s important for the next government in Cairo to recognize the Camp David accords.

Gibbs also took a swipe at the Iranian regime, saying “there is quite a contrast” between the way “the government of Egypt and the people of Egypt are interacting” and the way the Iranian government is treating its people.

Tehran is “scared,” Gibbs said. The Iranian government “has met the concerns of its people with threatening to kill them.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

Filed under: Diplomacy

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